Wigan Athletic’s 16-game unbeaten run came to an end at Southend United but fortunately they retained top spot in the table after rivals Shrewsbury and Blackburn failed to take advantage.
Latics had an off-day at Roots Hall and the Shrimpers under new manager Chris Powell deserved the three points.
The visitors went behind after only three minutes when Michael Turner headed home from close range following a free-kick by Stephen McLlaughlin.
Latics struggled to get going and they went further into trouble on 36 minutes when Simon Cox played in former Latic Marc-Antoine Fortune for a rare goal.
Substitute James Vaughan scored his first goal for Latics to reduce the deficit on 67 minutes when he finished Nathan Byrne’s right-wing cross.
But Latics’ hopes of a comeback were thwarted on 87 minutes when Michael Kightly concluded the scoring after Christian Walton had saved Simon Cox’s initial shot.
Paul Cook made two changes from the team which had defeated Gillingham last Saturday, with Callum Elder and Gavin Massey replacing Reece James and Ryan Colclough.
Latics went into the game hoping to extend their unbeaten run at Roots Hall with important games coming up against Blackpool in the league and Manchester City in the FA Cup but they were behind after only three minutes as McLaughlin’s free-kick from the right was headed in by Turner.
Nick Powell had a good opportunity on 15 minutes following Callum Elder’s cross but he uncharacteristically fired wide of the target from 12 yards out.
Latics went further behind on on 36 minutes when Fortune grabbed his first goal since October beating Walton from Simon Cox’s pass.
Cox might have made it three soon afterwards but he fired just over the crossbar from Ben Coker’s cross.
Latics just hadn’t been competitive in the first half and it would require a major improvement if they were to get anything from the game in the second half.
The early signs weren’t good though as Dan Burn had to make a goal-line clearance to deny Anton Ferdinand as the defender found space in the area from a set-piece.
Paul Cook then replaced Michael Jacobs and Gavin Massey with Gary Roberts and James Vaughan in an attempt to turn things around.
They went close soon afterwards when Roberts’ dangerous cross was turned away with several Latics players ready to pounce. But they did reduce the deficit when Vaughan finished from Byrne’s cross.
Latics were now pushing for the equaliser and Burn headed just over from Max Power’s corner.
Vaughan fired wide as Latics went close but the fightback was thwarted when Kightly followed up to score the third after Walton had saved Cox’s first effort.
Latics misery was compounded in the 97th minute when they appeared to have a clear penalty when Vaughan was grappled to the floor, but referee Andy Woolmer waved away appeals and booked Vaughan for his troubles.
Overall it was a lacklustre display and disappointing result for Latics, but credit should be given to Southend who are much improved under new manager Chris Powell who has now won all three of his opening games.
Matters could have been much worse however for Latics, if Shrewsbury had not lost at home to Plymouth and Blackburn held at home to Oldham, so they keep a two point lead at the top with a game in hand on Shrewsbury.
Paul Cook will be acutely aware that his players will need to show a big improvement at home to Blackpool on Tuesday night if they want to maintain their lead at the top. Anything less than a victory and the pressure will surely mount.